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Meet the Hamptons’ Queen of Design

Kelly Behun brings eccentricity to the Hampton’s billionaires’ lane

As with many wealthy enclaves, it’s easy to imagine the Hamptons as a symbolic destination – a Nancy Meyers kitchen in the sky – rather than a physical place. But it was the land’s natural beauty that has drawn interior designer Kelly Behun to the East End for a quarter-century. “In the fundamental ways, the ones that really matter, it hasn’t changed a bit — it’s still one of the most beautiful places anywhere,” she says.

In that quarter-century, Behun’s immediate surroundings have evolved. Today, she shares a 22,000-square-foot beachfront estate on Southampton’s Meadow Lane (a.k.a. “billionaires’ lane”) with her husband, iStar Financial Chairman and CEO Jay Sugarman, and their two kids, flanked by neighbors such as Ian Schrager and Calvin Klein. While their sprawling glass-and-stone masterpiece might be straight out of a Sex and the City dream sequence, Behun’s path to peak Hamptons was gradual. “I’ve been coming to the Hamptons for 25 years, first renting, then buying a small house; then when our kids were born, building our dream house.

Behun splits her time between the Hamptons and Manhattan, where she runs her high-powered interior design firm, banging out projects for the likes of the Delano hotel in Miami, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, all while producing a line of furniture and homewares, Kelly Behun Studio. Both in her personal and professional life, it’s clear Behun has a gift for making dreams a reality.

A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Behun always strove toward higher ground. “I moved to New York directly after college because I had always imagined myself eventually living here,” she says. “I had romanticized it from movies and books my whole life and didn’t really have a Plan B, so was greatly relieved when I finally moved here and discovered it really was all that and more.”

But it was her hometown roots that magnetized her to the Hamptons in the first place. “It’s funny, because whenever my family visits the Hamptons, we always remark that it is a bit like Sewickley-by-the-sea, so I guess it wasn’t a coincidence that I was drawn here as an adult.”

That said, Behun’s tastes have made no small impact on the Hamptons landscape. A former protégé of Philippe Starck, Behun’s proclivity toward modernism is in razor-sharp contrast to the archetypical shabby-chic Hamptons home.

Her and Sugarman’s property’s expansive grounds, anchored by a show-stopping infinity pool, have made it the perfect venue for their causes; the home has been the backdrop to fundraisers for God’s Love We Deliver, New Yorkers for Children and the David Lynch Foundation, which teaches Transcendental Meditation to at-risk populations. And while Behun and Sugarman’s 25-year marriage may be one of the most grounded partnerships in all of Long Island, Behun says meditation is no substitute for communication — especially when it comes to decorating. “We generally agree on things, but of course a few times I’ve had to pull out that old chestnut of a threat, ‘Do I come to your office and tell you how to do your job?’” she says. “But I get my way.”

Main image: Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com